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Exploring the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores

Exploring the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores

The 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung would be really popular if it wasn’t so hard to get to, which means if you brave the terrible roads and overcrowded buses you’ll have an array of island paradises that are begging to be explored. I learnt, after a quick search online, that Riung is 72 km from Bajawa, in central Flores, Indonesia. I said to myself “That’ll be an easy hour and a half – two hours, I’ll arrive in the early afternoon, have some lunch, check out the town and then relax”. I was horribly wrong…

That 72 km journey took just over five hours to complete. As if the lack of speed wasn’t bad enough, I sat next to an extremely sick local woman who made those horrible throat noises/threw up into a bag for at least half of the journey. I had almost no leg room because the bus was so full that there were people sitting all over the floor – I guess I should be thankful I actually got a seat.

A boat trip to the 17 Islands Marine Park

I joined forces with a French couple and a German couple, and after finding possibly the cheapest boat in town we set out onto the water with a driver who spoke almost no English. The first stop was to see some huge bats being harassed by the other boat drivers. We pulled in closer to the island and saw a few bats, but the other boats saw far more – I guess their boat captains were better at annoying them.

The 17 Islands Marine Park boat tour in Riung, Flores, IndonesiaSnorkelling in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

We then continued on to the first snorkelling spot. I had only snorkelled once before, In Palawan, and was still a little apprehensive. We had to make our way from the boat to the beach nearby, which looked a lot further than it actually was. I got over my fears and entered the water, and I’m glad I did, as I saw so many fish and colourful corals. It was in those moments that I became completely hooked on snorkelling, and have since done quite a lot of it on an awesome Komodo National Park tour.

After snorkelling for about an hour we reached the beach and were treated to the perfect island hopping lunch – freshly caught fish barbequed whole with some noodles, rice and vegetables.

Seafood lunch on the 17 Islands boat tour in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

The Beaches

The beaches were great and almost completely deserted. These aren’t your carefully swept and manicured beaches; there are no resorts or infrastructure at all on these islands and no one is around to clean away the mess. The sand is still great for lying around on though and the water is that perfect, almost Maldives-like colour. The last beach we stopped at was particularly special, as it was completely deserted and had the best water for swimming I’ve seen in Southeast Asia. It was the perfect depth, not too warm and the colour was amazing. Our captain also cut us open a few coconuts for us to drink from while floating about in the water.

READ MORE: 10 Awesome Islands Near Bali That You Can Easily Visit

A perfect beach in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, IndonesiaBoats on the beach in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

An island with a view

The last island we visited also had a hill with a track (I’m using that term very loosely) which was home to some mind-blowing views over the area.

The view from the top of a hill in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Everything you need to know about the 17 Islands Marine Park boat tour

There’s a lot of misinformation about prices for the 17 Islands boat tour. The touts who hang around the guesthouses are quite arrogant and will try and overcharge you, but most people deal with them because they usually get into town late and it’s easier than walking to the pier, which is about 10 minutes away. We walked to the pier and talked to a friendly guy named Saleem who quoted us 500,000 IDR, which included lunch for all 5 people. The next best offer we got was 650,000 IDR, and the guys around the guesthouses were trying to charge people a million rp! It’s also really refreshing when someone comes straight out with a good price, forgoing the whole “I’ll try and rip you off then we’ll bargain and arrive at a price that is still too expensive” routine. We had to pay 25,000 IDR each for a mask and 20,000 IDR in park fees, which means we paid 145,000 IDR each, or around $12 USD. In terms of value for money, it’s hard to imagine a better island hopping deal in Indonesia.

The 17 Islands boat trip in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Riung: A small fishing village

Riung is a small and incredibly quiet town which has hardly been affected by tourism. There are a few guesthouses and restaurants, but you’ll mainly see wide open roads, palm trees and houses on stilts. I ate at Pato Resto a few times and the owner there, Chris, is a really friendly guy who can sort out boat trips, transport or some amazing sweet and sour fish. He helped me top up the internet on my phone, and in turn I helped him list his business on Tripadvisor and also gave him some music to play in the restaurant. If you hear Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, The Doors, Radiohead or anything else that seems out of place in Indonesia you’ll have me to thank (I talked to him the next day and he said someone told him it was the best music he’d ever heard in an Indonesian restaurant!).

The 17 Islands Marine Park makes for a great day out, and spending a few days in sleepy Riung is about as relaxing as travel can get – just beware of the horrible bus ride!

READ MORE: Backpacking in Indonesia: Costs, Tips and Places to See

Boats on the beach after snorkelling in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Have you been island hopping in the 17 Islands Marine Park? Would you like to? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

Latest posts by Jon Algie (see all)

Jan

Sunday 3rd of November 2019

We are now sitting at Pato Resto, listening to the Attic Monkeys. So, after 5 years, your magic still works! Thank you, Jon

Jon Algie

Thursday 7th of November 2019

Ah that's awesome, I've been waiting for this comment for years!

Trina

Wednesday 5th of October 2016

We're heading to Flores for a few weeks at the end of November/early December - are there any accomodations on any of the islands or are we strickly looking at a day trip? I realise that it was acoupke of years ago but what is the best way to get a seat on the bus? ie arrive early, get on a certain point? did it fill up immediately or along the way? we've done long, overpacked bus trips (in nicaragua) but we have 2 kids(6 &9) so like to know what we're getting into so everyone is adequately prepared :)

Jon Algie

Tuesday 11th of October 2016

Hi,Trina, as far as I know there aren't any hotels etc on the islands although I have heard you can camp on some of them -- could be a cool experience. The bus trawled around town for ages picking people up, just ask at your hotel where it goes first and get on early, you should get a seat. You can also hire a car / driver -- this is the kind of horrible bus journey where it could be worth splashing out a bit on something like that. Enjoy your trip!

Todd Wells

Thursday 24th of March 2016

Did you come across anyone who had traveled from Labuan Bajo to Riung by boat?

Jon Algie

Saturday 26th of March 2016

I met some people who were just about to do that -- it sounded like it was going to be a long, rough and expensive trip though!

jo

Sunday 30th of August 2015

we travelled across flores from Maumere to Labuang Bajo in July. We adored 17 Islands. We hired a car and driver to take us right across the island. Cost was $100 Australian dollars a day between 4 of us. Well worth the money!

Jon Algie

Monday 31st of August 2015

Sounds like a good idea, there are lots of places you can't stop when you're travelling by bus.

Asali

Wednesday 24th of June 2015

Another great blog post on Indonesia. I'm definitely saving this post for my Flores travels whenever I make it back there, I'll be sure to start here. That sounds like a deal for 145,000 IDR for boat, snorkel, fees, and lunch. Not too shabby. I wrote down Saleem's name. Thanks!

Jon Algie

Friday 26th of June 2015

Cheers Asali. I reckon it's got to be some of the best value island hopping in the world!